Where Have You Been?

Thomas Smith released a podcast episode about his time at MythCon. I have few nitpicks about it; the bit where he chastised people for calling the organizers “Nazis” because it didn’t help him came across as tone policing and a touch self-absorbed, and I was chuffed he didn’t mention Monette Richards when he listed off people who’d been right about what would happen. But that needs to be weighed against the rest of what he said on that podcast, and in particular an honest-to-goodness ultimatum he issued to Mythicist Milwaukee: change and disavow your problematic board members, or he’ll do everything he can to discourage people from their events. Never thought I’d hear something like that from him.

The kudos and love he’s getting right now are deserved. His performance at MythCon was the best anyone could hope for, based on the few scraps I’m seeing. And yet, those kudos come with a bitter taste. Steve Shives beat me to the reason why, and Smith himself has suggested he agrees with Shives, so in some sense what follows is redundant. But it’s a point that needs emphasis and repetition until it fully sinks in. [Read more…]

Above the Drama

Apologies for the radio silence, I’ve had a rotten few weeks. Before I put the blog in “park” for a few months, though, I want to weigh in on a local controversy. That’s still brewing behind the scenes unfortunately, so the silence shall continue, but I do have a less-local controversy to discuss in the meantime.

I’m withdrawing my name, my speech, my presence, and my participation from the 2017 Mythinformation Conference.
I’m trying to discern what good might have come from the controversy surrounding MythCon. So far, the only positive is that the furor has revealed a clearer portrait of people, attitudes, arguments, and the already-frayed atheist movement.
You’ve heard of the Mythinformation thing, no doubt. Aron Ra had already pulled out (Lilandra Ra has the deets), and now Seth Andrews is vacating the premises.

I’m pro-Feminism. I’m pro-Black Lives Matter. I’m pro-Humanism. I’m pro-humanity. I’m also interested in engaging with those who respectfully disagree on the critical issues of our age, as long as those agents are operating in good faith, with respect for all, and a desire to work together not merely to win, but to see the best ideas win. The YouTubers in question don’t even come close to that mark. […]

I wrote MythCon with a formal request that it issue an apology to Sargon, Shoe and Armored for the trouble, and then withdraw their invitations to speak, giving those open slots to better, more reasonable, and more compelling names like Ron Miscavige. (I’d have also supported the inclusion of “dissenting” activists who had better reputations and a track record of better behavior.) MythCon politely declined.

Props to Seth Andrews for doing this, I think it’s the right call given how the organizers of MythCon have behaved.

And, yet …

I recently spoke with my wife about all of this. She knows how much I love people, how much I genuinely want to make the right decisions, and how hard I’ve worked to ensure that The Thinking Atheist and my own reputation stay above the drama, the fray, the internet gutters, and the social media flame wars. I haven’t always succeeded, but it’s something I have always strived for.

“Above the drama?” That’s impossible if you want to accomplish any sort of social justice, regressives always kick up drama to defend or excuse themselves. I mean, haven’t all we had this tattooed onto our eyeballs by now?

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

If you’re “above the drama” on social justice issues, you oppose social justice. Not as openly as someone who plots to commit violence, true, but this subconscious and unintentional opposition acts like rain on a mountain.

Extreme voices like Dan Arel – who broadcasts from his latest residence in the town of Oblivion – gleefully poured gasoline on every spark, going so far as to call the hotel with alarmist tales of possible disaster. (Remember that this is the same guy who thinks we should punch Nazis, and that all police officers are terrorists. We can move on, folks. Nothing to see here.)

Punching NAZIS?!?! THIS makes Dan Arel an extremist? Heaven forfend Andrews gets his hand on any video games, which delight in doing much more than punching Nazis. They’re kinda the universal villain, if you haven’t noticed. Arel’s actual views on Nazi-punching are very well argued

Nazism is an ideology based on white supremacy and the eradication, through genocide, of nonwhites (and many others).

A Christian, for example, can believe an atheist is evil for not believing in their god and punch them. Their action, however, is unfounded. They punched an atheist based on an appeal to their emotions.

We know Nazism is evil. We know their goals, we know where their ideology leads. If you punch a Nazi, especially if you’re one of those marginalized and threatened by their ideology, you’re acting in self-defense. Even if you’re a white person punching a Nazi, you’re acting in the defense of others.

So the slippery slope analogy fails immediately here.

… and as for the police as terrorists, I gotta wonder if Andrews has ever heard of “the talk,” or what black parents say to their kids about the police. Or how they discourage their kids from calling the police, for fear of what will happen to them. Or black people in the USA are less likely to call 911 after hearing of police violence against another black person. To some people in the US, police officers are a source of terror. Hence, calling them terrorists is less radical than it first appears.

Look, Seth Andrews, don’t get me wrong: I’m glad you’ve withdrawn from MythCon, it was the right thing to do. But seriously, your support of Black Lives Matter and humanism is badly undercut by your ignorance of social justice. Quit blindly playing the Golden Mean Fallacy card and learn something, dammit.

Fake Hate, Frequentism, and False Balance

This article from Kiara Alfonseca of ProPublica got me thinking.

Fake hate crimes have a huge impact despite their rarity, said Ryan Lenz, senior investigative writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Project. “There aren’t many people claiming fake hate crimes, but when they do, they make massive headlines,” he said. It takes just one fake report, Lenz said, “to undermine the legitimacy of other hate crimes.”

My lizard brain could see the logic in this: learning one incident was a hoax opened up the possibility that others were hoaxes too, which was comforting if I thought that world was fundamentally moral. But with a half-second more thought, that view seemed ridiculous: if we go from a 0% hoax rate to 11% in our sample, we’ve still got good reason to think the hoax rate is low.

With a bit more thought, I realized I had enough knowledge of probability to determine who was right.

[Read more…]

This Rings A Bell

Heavyweight tech investor and FDA-critic Peter Thiel is among conservative funders and American researchers backing an offshore herpes vaccine trial that blatantly flouts US safety regulations, according to a Monday report by Kaiser Health News.

The vaccine—a live but weakened herpes virus—was first tested in a 17-person trial on the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts without federal oversight or the standard human safety requirement of an institutional review board (IRB) approval. Biomedical researchers and experts have sharply rebuked the lack of safety oversight and slammed the poor quality of the data collected, which has been rejected from scientific publication. However, investors and those running the trial say it is a direct challenge to what they see as innovation-stifling regulations by the Food and Drug Administration.

It was around that point in Beth Mole’s article for Ars Technica that I got a sense of deja-vu. A quick Google search confirmed it was more than a feeling:

Biomedical research, then, promises vast increases in life, health, and flourishing. Just imagine how much happier you would be if a prematurely deceased loved one were alive, or a debilitated one were vigorous — and multiply that good by several billion, in perpetuity. Given this potential bonanza, the primary moral goal for today’s bioethics can be summarized in a single sentence.

Get out of the way.

A truly ethical bioethics should not bog down research in red tape, moratoria, or threats of prosecution based on nebulous but sweeping principles such as “dignity,” “sacredness,” or “social justice.” Nor should it thwart research that has likely benefits now or in the near future by sowing panic about speculative harms in the distant future.

That was an ill-informed opinion of Steven Pinker from two years ago. I took it to task back then, but I wonder if Pinker has changed his mind in the intervening years. I checked his Twitter feed, and came away empty. Stick a pin in that one, it may become interesting.

A Portrait of Cowardice

If you want to bury something, conventional wisdom says to release it on a Friday.

Josh: Any stories we have to give the press that we’re not wild about, we give all in a lump on Friday.
Donna: Why do you do it in a lump?
Josh: Instead of one at a time?
Donna: I’d think you’d want to spread them out.
Josh: They’ve got X column inches to fill, right? They’re going to fill them no matter what.
Donna: Yes.
Josh: So if we give them one story, that story’s X column inches.
Donna: And if we give them five stories …
Josh: They’re a fifth the size.
Donna: Why do you do it on Friday?
Josh: Because no one reads the paper on Saturday.

Dunno if you heard, but there’s also a giant hurricane heading towards Texas.

If it does not lose significant strength, the system will come ashore as the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961’s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record. Aside from the winds of 130 mph (201 km/h) and storm surges up to 12 feet (4 metres), Harvey was expected to drop prodigious amounts of rain – up to 3 feet. The resulting flooding, one expert said, could be “the depths of which we’ve never seen.” […]

“In terms of economic impact, Harvey will probably be on par with Hurricane Katrina,” said University of Miami senior hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. “The Houston area and Corpus Christi are going to be a mess for a long time.”

On top of all that, this is Texas. A lot of people are blowing off the hurricane’s severity or refusing to leave their places for fear of looting. Border patrol is leaving their checkpoints open, so any immigrants that flee for their lives might be rewarded with a deportation. The situation is so bad, one mayor asked people to write their name and social number on their arms, so their bodies could be identified later.

Anyone dumping major news stories on the Friday evening that Hurricane Harvey hits is a craven coward, exploiting other people’s deaths to distract from their own bad press.

In a resignation letter, published Friday night by The Federalist and confirmed by POLITICO, [Sebastian] Gorka cited “forces” that do not support President Donald Trump’s “MAGA promise” as those that drove him out of the White House.

But a White House official indicated in a statement that Gorka had been forced out: “Sebastian Gorka did not resign, but I can confirm he no longer works at the White House,” the official said.


President Donald Trump has formally signed a presidential memo directing the Pentagon to ban transgender people from joining the US military, following through on a policy he announced on Twitter back in July.

The presidential memo, issued late Friday evening, directs the secretaries of defense and homeland security (which oversees the US Coast Guard) to put forward a plan to implement the new policy by February 21, 2018.


President Trump on Friday pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio — a move that keeps one of his staunchest political allies out of jail and will likely cheer his conservative base, which supports both men’s hard-line views on illegal immigration. […]

Trump’s pardon came late on a Friday night, at a time when much of the country was focused on a Category 4 hurricane bearing down on Texas. The reaction among advocates and Democrats was swift.

“President Trump is a coward. He waited until a Friday evening, as a hurricane hits, to pardon a racist ex-sheriff,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), who represents Phoenix. “Trump should at least have the decency to explain to the American public why he is undermining our justice system.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) also accused the president of “using the cover of the storm to pardon a man who violated a court’s order.”

Let’s focus in on that last one. While the US president has wide latitude to pardon anyone he wants, with little or no restriction, there are formal guidelines for how they should go about it. The US Department of Justice needs to investigate the situation, perhaps even dragging in the FBI; the conviction has to be in Federal court; there should be a five year waiting period between the conviction and the pardon; the person requesting the pardon must state their reasons and show remorse; and while it isn’t in the link above, the original ideal behind the pardon was to promote national unity in the face of a crisis.

Only one of those was fulfilled. Trump did not involve the Department of Justice; Arpaio has not even been sentenced yet, nor has he shown remorse; and Arpaio is a horribly racist officer who humiliated convicts and violated basic human rights. Pardoning him sends a signal that other officers are free to flaunt the law so long as they kiss Trump’s ass, making a mockery of the law and dividing the country. By extending it to crimes Arpaio hasn’t been convicted of, Trump may make a powerful tool even more so. By telegraphing his intentions at a political rally, Trump’s turned the pardon into a political tool instead of an act of mercy.

When Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, his popularity took one of the largest hits recorded. By cowardly hiding the pardon amid a dump of other news, while Texans are dying from a natural disaster, Trump must be hoping that he’ll avoid the same fate as Ford.

Alas, the “Friday news dump” doesn’t work. Trump’s popularity won’t tumble as much as Ford’s, mainly because it’s already near the floor and can’t fall as far, but I’d be shocked if he doesn’t take a minor hit at minimum. No, this will instead add to the rising tensions between Trump and Congress, and there’s a small chance it’ll be enough to finally convince Republicans to impeach his ass.

Mystery Cults and the Alt-Right

The chain of referrers on this is longer than the paragraph I wanted to share: via Salty Current and Josh Marshall, I was alerted to this tidbit of wisdom by John Herrman.

It is worth noting that the platforms most flamboyantly dedicated to a borrowed idea of free speech and assembly are the same ones that have struggled most intensely with groups of users who seek to organize and disrupt their platforms. A community of trolls on an internet platform is, in political terms, not totally unlike a fascist movement in a weak liberal democracy: It engages with and uses the rules and protections of the system it inhabits with the intent of subverting it and eventually remaking it in their image or, if that fails, merely destroying it.

I’m more in the camp of Josh Marshall than Herrman, though.

And yet, I think the Times article by John Herrman basically misses the mark in thinking that racist groups’ reaction to this banning was planned or showed some deeper understanding or even sympathy with the authoritarian nature of these platforms. […]

The mix of provocation, harassment and trolling is a major part and in some ways the totality of what the digital far-right is about. That’s why racist activists are so eager to give speeches at Berkeley. They get a reaction. Fights start. They create polarization. If some racist freak holds that speech is his backyard or basement with ten friends, who cares? No one does. No one even knows … That is truly the unique hell of online racist provocateurs: no one even knowing they’re ranting. A new version of Twitter for racists only will be the digital equivalent of the same thing.

You can’t change culture without engaging in it on some level, and you’re in the culture-changing business if you want to move from being a fringe to an accepted part of culture. Hence the focus on dog whistles and the worship of memesas a way of wedging fringe ideas into popular culture.

Kek, in the Alt-Right’s telling, is the “deity” of the semi-ironic “religion” the white nationalist movement has created for itself online — partly for amusement, as a way to troll liberals and self-righteous conservatives — and to make a political point. He is a god of chaos and darkness, with the head of a frog, the source of their memetic “magic,” to whom the Alt-Right and Donald Trump owe their success, according to their own explanations.

In many ways, Kek is the apotheosis of the bizarre alternative reality of the Alt-Right: at once absurdly juvenile, transgressive and racist, as well as reflecting a deeper, pseudo-intellectual purpose that lends it an appeal to young ideologues who fancy themselves deep thinkers. It dwells in that murky area they often occupy, between satire, irony, mockery, and serious ideology; Kek can be both a big joke to pull on liberals and a reflection of the Alt-Right’s own self-image as serious agents of chaos in modern society.

Most of all, Kek has become a kind of tribal marker of the Alt-Right: Its meaning obscure and unavailable to ordinary people — “normies,” in their lingo — referencing Kek is most often just a way of signaling to fellow conversants online that the writer embraces the principles of chaos and destruction that are central to Alt-Right thinking.

This combination of religious “mystery cults” and secular bigotry is potent and tough to scrub away. Fortunately, it can be diluted.

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.…

The problem with going more abstract, as Lee Atwater famously suggested, is that the emotional punch of the original is watered down, and in the natural drift of language you can lose control of where it goes. “States’ Rights” was a code-word for defending bigotry, but since then other interest groups have started using it for their own ends. At the same time, social justice advocates work hard to educate the public on what the dog whistle really means, changing it from covert to overt. Pepe the Frog is a great example of this. The memes that don’t escape into popular culture, such as the rebranding of the OK symbol, aren’t of much concern because “no one even knows” they exist and they fail to “disrupt [public] platforms.”

But if this bigotry has strong religious connotations, I have to ask: where’s the atheist community in all this? Shouldn’t we be leading the charge against this attempt to remake society in a racist image, due to our familiarity with the underlying tactics?

This Should Get Interesting

Trump’s Feed is the brainchild of Philip Bump over at the Washington Post. It follows everyone that Trump is following, and retweets their latest tweets; the idea is to simulate what Trump sees when he opens Twitter. Currently, it’s full of tweets like this:

(That one’s true, stocks rose on news of his departure.)

It’s an interesting range of opinions, with some happy to have Bannon out and others thinking this is a dramatic turn leftward. Bannon and Breitbart are signalling they’re ready to fight the White House, though I’m not sure how seriously to take that. Corey Lewandowski (maybe) came back, Trump was still interested in talking to Michael Flynn months after firing him, and Bannon’s friends aren’t entirely reliable. There’s also the slight problem of trying to invoke the alt-Right when you’ve said this:

I asked Bannon about the connection between his program of economic nationalism and the ugly white nationalism epitomized by the racist violence in Charlottesville and Trump’s reluctance to condemn it. Bannon, after all, was the architect of the strategy of using Breitbart to heat up white nationalism and then rely on the radical right as Trump’s base.

He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”

“These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.

And yet he was also aggressively courting those clowns not too long ago. Do they still side with him? Would an exodus mean Brietbart will fade out? Are part of his base going to peel away if they think Trump is turning leftwards, or will this bring some calm to the White House water cooler? Firing Bannon was a table-flip; all the pieces are flying around, and no-one is sure how they’ll land. About the only thing we can say is that the results will be interesting.

Apparently I’m Psychic?

I was about to type up a bit of a follow-up to this post, shoring up the titular claim that Trump is a neo-Nazi, when Trump removed my need to.

“You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch. But there is another side. There was a group on this side — you can call them the left, you just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.” […]

Trump appeared to equate the violence to both sides of the people gathered in Charlottesville. When asked about comments by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., about the alt-right, Trump fired back: “What about the alt-left that came charging?” “You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” the president said.

Yep, Trump is saying the people struck by a car are equally guilty of perpetuating violence as the white supremacists who beat protesters and paraded around in neo-Nazi gear, as the civilians who showed up in full combat gear in the hope of sparking a race war.

Speaking on Tuesday, he insisted that many of those in the crowds brandishing Nazi flags and engaging white power salutes were simply “there to protest the taking down the statue of Robert E Lee.”

Trump himself defended Robert E. Lee thus:

“George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? …Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? OK, good. Are we going to take down his statue, because he was a major slave owner.

For those who aren’t up on US history, Robert E. Lee was a general of the Confederate army that tried to secede from the US over the ability to own slaves, and was known as a cruel slave-owner. He’s a key marker of white supremacy in the USA.

But even if one conceded Lee’s military prowess, he would still be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of human beings as property because they are black. Lee’s elevation is a key part of a 150-year-old propaganda campaign designed to erase slavery as the cause of the war and whitewash the Confederate cause as a noble one. That ideology is known as the Lost Cause, and as historian David Blight writes, it provided a “foundation on which Southerners built the Jim Crow system.” […]

Lee’s cruelty as a slavemaster was not confined to physical punishment. In Reading the Man, the historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s portrait of Lee through his writings, Pryor writes that “Lee ruptured the Washington and Custis tradition of respecting slave families,” by hiring them off to other plantations, and that “by 1860 he had broken up every family but one on the estate, some of whom had been together since Mount Vernon days.” The separation of slave families was one of the most unfathomably devastating aspects of slavery, and Pryor wrote that Lee’s slaves regarded him as “the worst man I ever see.” […]

Lee’s heavy hand on the Arlington plantation, Pryor writes, nearly led to a slave revolt, in part because the enslaved had been expected to be freed upon their previous master’s death, and Lee had engaged in a dubious legal interpretation of his will in order to keep them as his property, one that lasted until a Virginia court forced him to free them.

When two of his slaves escaped and were recaptured, Lee either beat them himself or ordered the overseer to “lay it on well.” Wesley Norris, one of the slaves who was whipped, recalled that “not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done.”

The reason Trump gave for waiting two days is illuminating.

“When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened… Before I make a statement, I need the facts. I don’t want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent.”

In the same speech, he both said all the facts haven’t come in yet, and that Nazis don’t support him. David Duke, who had been critical of Trump’s earlier weak disavowal of white supremacists, is pleased with the new remarks. Meanwhile, outside of his supporters the only people cheering Trump’s remarks are the racists of 4chan. Even FOX wasn’t on board, with one anchor saying “This was a white nationalist rally.”

If facts were all Trump cared about, he would have joined most Republicans in denouncing the white supremacists. In reality, he was almost certainly collecting talking points from them, and they were having a tough time coming up with a coherent defense. That, and the above, are pretty strong evidence that Trump himself is a neo-Nazi.

[Much thanks to Salty Current, as usual, for a few of my links.]


Thanks also to Lynna, for linking to the full text of Trump’s speech and revealing this interesting slip:

TRUMP: When you say the alt-right, define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead. Define it for me, come on, let’s go. Okay, what about the alt-left that came charging at us – excuse me – what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

Trump himself identifies with neo-Nazis, he’s just not willing to admit it in public.


Hmph. I got suspicious of the previous quote, and started digging. Here’s what the official White House transcript says:

TRUMP: Okay, what about the alt-left that came charging at — excuse me, what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

Here’s CNBC:

TRUMP:  OK. What about the alt-left that came charging at- [Indistinct.] Excuse me, what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right. Do they have any semblance of guilt?

Vox’s “rush transcript:”

TRUMP: What about the alt left that came charging at, as you say, at the alt right? Do they have any assemblage of guilt?

CNN:

TRUMP: What about the alt-left that came charging at the — as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

The variation I quoted above was from Politico. At the bottom of the page is this:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this transcript quoted Trump as saying, “Okay, what about the alt-left that came charging at us – excuse me.” In a review of the audio, we could not definitively discern Trump’s exact words at that moment in the news conference. The transcript has been updated to now read: “Okay, what about the alt-left that came charging at [indiscernible] – excuse me.”

You can watch the key passage yourself. “Charging at us” is plausible, but so is “charging at’m.” There’s too much cross-talk for me to be sure, and I could be led astray by top-down audio processing. So demote that one down to “indeterminate.”

The Neo-Nazi in Chief

Ah, that was a great hike! What did I miss while I was gone…

oh. Oh dear. This should have been a slam-dunk: Nazis just committed acts of violence against unarmed protesters, and everyone hates Nazis. Yet all Trump could manage was this?!

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.

It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.

Maybe his cabinet did better? Let’s look at Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions

I stand with @POTUS against hate & violence. U.S is greatest when we join together & oppose those seeking to divide us. #Charlottesville

I have been in contact with our Department of Justice agents assisting at the scene and state officials,” Sessions said. “We will continue to support our state and local officers on the ground in any way possible. We stand united behind the president in condemning the violence in Charlottesville and any message of hate and intolerance. This kind of violence is totally contrary to American values and can never be tolerated. I want to thank all law enforcement personnel in the area for their commitment to protecting this community and the rule of law.

Except police officers stood aside while neo-Nazis attacked protesters, and they did nothing when heavily armed neo-Nazis showed up. Great dodge there, Sessions. Though, on that note: how did Republicans who aren’t part of the White House react? They haven’t exactly been kind to minorities in the past, so maybe they too would sympathise with the neo-Nazis and pull their punches?

The president’s vagueness stood in contrast to his frequent contention, echoing many on the right, that “radical Islamic terrorism” cannot be defeated if political leaders are not willing to specifically call it that.

Among the prominent Republicans who took to Twitter to specifically condemn the neo-Nazis’ violence in Virginia, were House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, former Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie, who is now running for governor in Virginia, and Ronna Romney McDaniel, the current chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.

No really, with the notable exception of Mitch McConnell they had no problems outright condemning neo-Nazis. Even Orrin Hatch was harsh.

 

“Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. […]

In a statement, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., went so far as to address “neo-Nazis” along with white supremacists, saying that the groups “are, by definition, opposed to American patriotism and the ideals that define us as a people and make our nation special.” […]

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was among the high-ranking Republicans to speak out against the rally, calling it “repugnant” and “vile.” “The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant. Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry,” Ryan wrote. […]

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the lone African-American Republican in the senate, also called the attack “domestic terror” and encouraged it to be “condemned.” “Otherwise hate is simply emboldened,” wrote Scott. […]

Sen. Ted Cruz slammed the violence associated with the rally and its aftermath in a strongly worded Facebook post.

“The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate,” Cruz wrote in the statement.

“Having watched the horrifying video of the car deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism.”

OK, so this is definitely something specific to Trump’s White House. If it were an isolated incident, we might be able to dismiss it as a fluke, but instead this incident joins a long list of curious behaviour towards neo-Nazis from Trump and his associates.

  • “It’s this constant, “Oh, it’s the white man. It’s the white supremacists. That’s the problem.” No, it isn’t, Maggie Haberman. Go to Sinjar. Go to the Middle East, and tell me what the real problem is today. Go to Manchester.”
  • A Trump administration effort to exclude violent white supremacists from a government anti-terrorism program and focus efforts solely on Islamist extremism drew a sharp backlash Thursday …”
  • The State Department drafted its own statement last month marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day that explicitly included a mention of Jewish victims, according to people familiar with the matter, but President Donald Trump’s White House blocked its release.The existence of the draft statement adds another dimension to the controversy around the White House’s own statement that was released on Friday and set off a furor because it excluded any mention of Jews.”
  • “But Trump did not become the object of white nationalist affection simply because his positions reflect their core concerns. Extremists made him their chosen candidate and now hail him as “Emperor Trump” because he has amplified their message on social media—and, perhaps most importantly, has gone to great lengths to avoid distancing himself from the racist right. With the exception of Duke [HJH: which he later clawed back], Trump has not disavowed a single endorsement from the dozens of neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, and militia supporters who have backed him. The GOP nominee, along with his family members, staffers, and surrogates, has instead provided an unprecedented platform for the ideas and rhetoric of far-right extremists, extending their reach. And when challenged on it by the press, Trump has stalled, feigned ignorance, or deflected—but has never specifically rejected any of these other extremists or their ideas.”
  • Rich Higgins wrote a neo-Nazi influenced memo (“globalists and bankers” are two of their things), which almost got him canned until the Trumps intervened and stalled the firing. got him fired by McMaster. The Trumps loved the memo, though, and the president was outraged by the firing. McMaster has been isolated, as a result.
  • Steve Bannon.

And as hinted at earlier, neo-Nazis view Trump as on their side.

Richard Spencer: Did Trump just denounce antifas? Or did Trump denounce the state police that cracked down on peacefully and lawfully assembled demonstrators?

Paul Nehlen: Like Pres. Trump, I condemn hatred and bigotry on all sides. Violent, illegal antifa attacks on lawful assemblies are especially repugnant.

I’m sorry, America, but you’ve elected a Nazi to lead your country. You might want to do something about that before he nukes the joint.